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Howland's Camp Ends in Dramatic Fashion

Auburn, UCLA and the Bulls win their age divisions after a week of basketball.

The final day of Ben Howland's Youth Basketball Camp at Palisades High was full of last-second shots and lasting words from the UCLA coaches who presented the team and individual awards Friday in the absence of the Bruins head coach, who was attending a funeral.

The day began with all the campers going to their fundamental stations to work on V-cuts, sweep for layups, hop-into-catch, ball handling, defensive stance, rebounding, chest pass and bounce pass drills. 

Then the 230 campers began "championship Friday" by joining their respective teams for the league playoffs and the finals of the "Hot Shot" and "3-on-3" competitions.

Auburn won the SEC Division (grades 1-2), which consisted of Kentucky, LSU, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Auburn and Tennessee.

Much to Howland's liking, UCLA won the PAC-10 Division (grades 3-4), which consisted of UCLA, Arizona, USC, California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State.

In a dramatic championship game, the Bulls beat the Suns 35-32 to win the NBA Division (grades 5-7), but only after the Suns missed a last-second three-pointer. Rounding out the teams were the Lakers, Spurs, Pacers and Celtics. 

Assisting Howland at this year's camp were Pali High boys and girls varsity coaches James Paleno and Torino Johnson, along with five former Dolphins players, one of whom, Vejas Anaya, coached the Suns to the final.

Anaya is also Palisades' boys frosh/soph coach. Paleno coached the Lakers, who finished third in the standings in the NBA division, then lost their first playoff game. Johnson's Pacers beat the Lakers in the teams' head-to-head meeting but wound up in fourth place and also lost their playoff opener. 

"We started off hot, winning our first three games but we fizzled out after that," Johnson joked. "It was fun, though, and the kids had a lot of fun." 

Johnson was also impressed with Samantha Spanier of Paleno's Lakers team. She won the "Attitude" award for her sportsmanlike play.

"She was awesome," Johnson said. "I hope she comes to Palisades because I'd love to coach her." 

Throughout the week, campers were taught the basics of the game--shooting, passing, ball-handling, rebounding and defensive stance. UCLA assistant coaches handed out awards to the winners of the skills competitions, defensive players of the week, league Most Valuable Players and the team champion from each division. 

Howland started his youth camp in Pacific Palisades in 2006. He has been the men's basketball coach at UCLA since 2003 and is among a select few Division I coaches to guide three different schools to the NCAA tournament (Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh, and UCLA). Howland is also one of only three active coaches to go to three consecutive Final Fours. 

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